Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Welcome Back to Common Plans/Eisenhower Project!

I've been off-duty with this project for around nine months now due to time constraints caused by an unexpected run for School Board, which was unexpectedly victorious and led to additional time constraints getting up to speed with the new job. Just as I was preparing to return to the organizing process described throughout this blog and the website, some bad news came in -- a local peace vigil group announced it was suspending its operations to pursue other activities, on the grounds that the election of Barack Obama obviates the need for pro-peace, anti-militarist action. Read about it here -- and I'm sure they are not alone:

This is a poorly thought out withdrawal by the vigil group. If, as they believe, the White House door is now open to peace proponents, this is the time to move forward through that open door, not to withdraw and disband. Surely the executives and lobbyists for the military industry aren't going home -- they're a vast and free-spending permanent encampment, and we need to recognize that and strategize accordingly. Are we just a free speech excercise intended solely for deaf ears, or a Democrat campaign committee -- or are we a peace movement? And for those of us who have not yet formed local peace movements, shouldn't we have an easier time in a favorable civic climate, and move boldly into the light?

For those of us who have observed that too many socially conscious people conflate the destination of achieving their stated goal with the election of Democrats, and the connection between that bad habit and the tendency of the elected Democrats to fail to address the activists' goals (as illustrated most severely by the 2006-2008 Democrat majorities in both houses of Congress -- including Barack Obama and everyone under active consideration for cabinet posts in his upcoming administration -- to do anything about the wars, torture, illegal surveillance, reactionary judicial appointments, etc., etc., etc. despite the will of the 2006 electorate providing them with majorities expressly for those purposes), the withdrawal of the Stone Ridge Peace Vigil and the choice by its leaders to move into diverse social activism in support of non-peace-oriented Obama policies is a harbinger of bad things to come if it catches on. Cleary they've forgotten (or deliberately ignored) that Obama has not pledged to bring troops home and make peace, but only to trade decreases in combat troops in Iraq for like increases in Afghanistan, while leaving at least 50,000 "trainers" and 150,000 mercenaries in Iraq indefinitely. They're also ignoring the fact that while they disband to leave Obama alone to pursue changes in military and foreign policy, the forces of reaction such as the general staff, the business leaders of the military-industrial complex, members of Congress whose districts have economic interests in both wars' continuance (most of them), the VFW and American Legion, etc., and the collective lobbyists for all of the above will be ramping up their efforts and, thanks to the voluntary withdrawal of peace activists, have uncontested access to the new President and at all levels of policy formation. This is a recipe for disaster.

That the Stone Ridge group was not content to make an internal decision but felt the need to distribute their message through the press requires an equivalent response from the more focused and committed peace activists. This is the worst possible time for peace activists to back off. Please move forward with organizing and activating your local groups, and where groups exist, call for a regional conference on the importance of following through with our peace activism until we achieve real and lasting peace.

Please scroll down through the earlier posts on this blog, especially "How To Get Started" parts 1 & 2, and visit for details on how to get your local group started. And please post on this blog and send email to

Steve Greenfield

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Eisenhower Project envisions this for Peace Service

Last week an institution called Youth With A Mission made headlines because of tragic violence at one of its training centers in Colorado. While reading news accounts, I came upon this:

"Youth With a Mission was started in 1960 and now has 1,100 locations with 16,000 full-time staff. Begun in 1960 after a 20-year-old college student said he experienced a vision from God, Youth With a Mission has grown into one of the world's most formidable Christian missions groups. The group, characterized by a decentralized structure and reputation for attracting zealous young people, equips missionaries to spread the Christian faith around the world..."

And this:

Darv Smith, director of a Youth With a Mission center in Boulder, said people ranging from their late teens to their 70s undergo a 12-week course that prepares them to be missionaries. He said the center trains about 300 people a year. Staffers are usually former missionaries themselves..."

Imagine if we, as anti-war activists, were this motivated to advance our set of values, and had gotten started at the same time, which was concurrent with Eisenhower's call to action. Imagine if we considered ourselves to be missionaries for Peace. Imagine if we had 1,100 offices and training centers, and 16,000 full-time staff.

Now imagine our federal budget at less than half what it is today. Imagine an economy unburdened by the inflationary pressures, debt, monopoly, bureaucracy, and non-productivity of military spending that is currently more than the rest of the world spends combined. Imagine local economic and political structures that are not dependent upon, and therefore forced to promote, arms manufacturing and military bases to sustain their local employment and tax bases, and by extension, to also maintain the tendency towards a violent foreign policy that justifies their use. Imagine a public education system that is not forced to accept military recruitment of its children as a condition of its budget. Imagine a world with 130 countries that don't have over 700 American military bases, arsenals of nuclear weapons, and over a half a million American armed and support personnel within their borders, along with the fears, dependencies, and enmities that derive from this global garrison.

Imagine it, and work for it, because if we had acted upon our vision the way the founders of Youth With A Mission had acted upon theirs, this is the America, and the world, we'd have right now. And this is the America, and the world, we may still create if we put our noses to the grindstone and emulate the best working models of community organizing. Please read both "How To Get Started" posts below, and please, let's get started.

Please visit Send this along to your friends, and contact me at

Steve Greenfield

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Why don't major candidates appear at peace forums?

Recently I was reading about a candidates' forum held at a conservative Christian convention that was attended by 1000 delegates from groups throughout the country. Every major presidential candidate appeared. There are similar conventions hosted by the NRA, the AMA, the NAACP, the ABA, the American Legion, trade associations, labor federations, and numerous other groups.

There has never been a candidate, major or minor, appearing at a peace group convention, let alone the whole crowd of them. Why is that? We need only look to the simplest of answers: no such thing exists. No such thing has ever existed.

There is no peace movement in this country. There are no 1000 delegates from local organizations bound together by a common agenda who could attend and put hard questions to candidates, nor is there any organized manner by which meaningful blocs of votes are committed or removed based upon the responses. Peace proponents do not participate in the multi-faceted parliamentary process that drives elections to decision-making posts in our republican (small "r") democracy.

We must create ourselves. We must force the need for responsiveness to our beliefs within the existing political process, as so many other significant organizations do. In order to do so, we must create 1000 well-populated local peace service organizations, who will send over 1000 delegates to a hotel in New York City or Washington, and make it clear that any candidate who doesn't have a working plan to promote our beliefs, or who fails to appear, or both, will lose access to a gigantic bloc of single-issue voters.

We kick-start the development of real potency for the bloc by highlighting the ability to determine the outcome of Electoral College votes in so-called "swing states," that is, those not overwhelmingly tending towards either major party. That means we use our limited resources to build and populate our peace service groups in the swing states first, although not at the expense of getting off the ground everywhere peace-proponents live and associate.

It's not complicated. It's not expensive. It must be done. Start your local chapter of the National Peace Service today. Scroll down to "How To Get Started" and "How To Get Started, Part 2" for the basics of how to start and operate your group.

If you have questions, or better yet, to let me know how you're doing with your start-up, please post a comment to this blog, and/or send me email at And please forward the address far and wide.

We can make this happen. We must make this happen.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

PROPOSAL FOR NATIONWIDE ACTION FOR MARCH 19th, 2008 (to be used in conjunction with other actions)

Take geography out of the equation, and provide an entry-level (low-risk) direct action that can be taken by all people, whether or not they belong to activist organizations. Call for a national home-based mobilization throughout all of America, so literally EVERYONE who is interested can participate. Except one key difference: have it run from 9 AM to 5 PM on a weekday.

That'll raise a few hackles and get the attention of a few editors. It will also let us know whether we have anyone in this country willing to do anything to stop the war besides talking, parading, or emailing against it.

That's a key piece of information, because all Republicans and a strong majority of Democrats have been betting against us on that, and so far nobody's doing a thing to demonstrate otherwise. That's why Congress is not motivated to stop the war. Pro-war people are demonstrating they can hurt office-holders for ending the war far more than anti-war people will should they fail to end it. This is odd, since most surveys show that anti-war people outnumber pro-war people by a 2-1 margin.

It must have something to do with the way the two messages get delivered. So let's have our side get real. Let's call a one-day general strike -- everyone takes off the same day.
March 19th, 2008, which is the fifth anniversary of the United States invasion of Iraq, is a Wednesday. Let this be the date for this important action. We could call it the "Sick Of War Sick-Out" and make it known that it's not a one-time deal. Make sure the action is in play with youth as well as adults, since today’s children are being assigned the mortgage payments for the war, even though they were allowed no role in the decisions that created it. “No Taxation Without Representation” was a good cry of resistance in the 18th century, and it will work with today’s youth, too. We must have parents, teachers, and when necessary, legal help available to support minors through any consequences of this action.

We should remind everyone whose occupation is in a life-saving service, such as firefighters, emergency medical workers, food pantry employees, police, and similar public safety workers, that they should attend work as usual, and to wear a peace emblem as evidence of their participation in the anti-war action.

If we don't get a big turnout the first time, don't despair. It's OK if the "Sick Out" doesn't get an overwhelming response on its first trial. Anti-war activists have not engaged in any active measurement of the potential for increased public involvement in war obstruction. That needs to change. We can't choose effective strategies for growth and movement towards our desired destination if we don't determine our point of origin. Should participation be weak, and we take that not as a setback, but as a wake-up call to knuckle down for some genuine community-level, face-to-face organizing work, it'll be bigger next time, and bigger still the time after that. We already have the only two things needed to motivate the effort: enough time to do it, and the necessity that it be done.

There is no indication that anyone in power is considering ending the war at least until after 2012, and in most cases much longer than that, or never -- unless we act now to change what we've been doing, and how we've been doing it.

Let’s hold a nationwide sick-out on Wednesday, March 19th, 2008.

Monday, October 8, 2007

How To Get Started, Part 2: Consider the Volunteer Fire Department & EMS

Today I found myself pondering my local volunteer fire department, in which I serve, and our Rescue Squad, with which we interact at car accidents and fire scenes where injuries are involved. I found serious food for thought that should be useful to the development of a Peace Movement.

Say you're the type of person who likes the idea of helping to save people's lives. You could go through life hoping that someday you'll find yourself in a situation where you could make the difference between life and death, or you could join your local fire department or rescue squad, which would not only put you in steady contact with the rewards of lifesaving service, but would also provide you with the training and support network that would ensure your ability to complete your task. What happens when you volunteer for the fire service?

First, you meet with the membership committee, which ascertains your understanding of the degree of commitment that's expected, assesses your desire to serve, checks your references, and does a minimal background check to make sure you never committed arson. Then the general membership accepts you into the service; and on the same night that happens, you get introduced to the team, shown around the trucks, bays, and compartments, and issued your ID, pager, and a t-shirt that you start wearing a lot more often than anything else in your wardrobe. You are a probationary member. From that moment, you're committing to a training schedule that will run you over 100 hours over a period of four months, just for the basic certification that allows you to enter a structure or touch a patient -- and that doesn’t include the regular weekly department training and monthly organizational meeting. All of these procedures are conducted by other volunteers who have come up in the exact same way and are now expert and motivated to bring others up through the ranks. If you fulfill all of your responsibilities and respond to the minimum number of calls over your first year, you move up to full member status, which brings further levels of commitment and the right to vote. All company business, ranging from what contractor services the soda machine, to drawing up specs for a truck, to altering bylaws, to the naming officers, comes across the floor for a vote.

You'll probably buy another t-shirt, and sweatshirt and jacket by this point, or receive them over time as service incentives, as by now you feel naked wearing anything else, for in them you are recognized as an Emergency Responder in your community and to your brothers and sisters in the service wherever you roam, a matter in which you take pride.

Every week you attend the company meeting, whether it’s administrative or technical training. Trainings are conducted by experienced officers. As you go through your activities, your talents and limitations start to fit in with the response plan. If you're claustrophobic, you won't be sent into confined spaces. If you're six-foot-three and 230 pounds, you could find yourself on forcible entry. If you're five-foot three and 105 pounds, you're perfect to get into attics. If you're older or have cardiac limitations, you might become a driver/pump operator. If you can't wear a pack and mask, you could handle the hydrant. Even when you're ninety years old, you can videotape incidents for review and training development. Everybody is a full partner in the operation, everybody is needed on every call, and nobody goes without a job. And yes, sometimes that job is fundraising.

But no matter what, you and the whole team are there every Monday night, and you answer every call that comes in when you're home. And you do that every year, as you get older, evolving into new jobs, and recruiting and training new members so that while some day you will be gone, the Fire Department will always be there. The Volunteer Fire Department was invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1736. It exists today with a million members nationwide, and there are probably an equal number of EMS volunteers. Every emergency, in every locale, in every generation, in every part of America, since 1736, is handled with remarkable efficiency and skill. The continuity and productivity of the services, how they are kept populated, and how they ensure ongoing service from out of the distant past, through today's calls, and onward into the indefinite future, is an integral part of the service itself.

But there's more. Each company sends a delegate to the county organization. Counties send delegates to the regional and state organizations. States belong to national. Colleges offer courses, and vendors sponsor conventions. Heck, we even build full-service nursing homes for elderly volunteers who need looking after. And you know what? At every level, from the smallest town to national, the emergency services wield serious political clout. Candidates come calling, legislation is adopted, and photo-ops abound.

The Volunteer Fire Service and the Emergency Medical Service are genuine movements that extinguish every fire and transport every patient to the hospital, yet only a million people participate. There are perhaps 100 million people in America who hold strong general anti-war beliefs, and another 100 million who at the very least want the war in Iraq ended, but nothing even close to a movement for power and impact exists. If only the same could be said of war mongers, who draw from a much smaller pool. What we need in this country, if we're ever going to come home from Iraq and build and secure a peaceful America for our posterity, is a Volunteer Peace Service that conducts itself according to the successful models provided by Fire, EMS, and dozens of other volunteer community service organizations from the PTA to churches, to the Kiwanis club, the 4-H, or even 12-step meetings. We have to earn the right to call ourselves a movement by actually building one, and when we build one, it will succeed.

I urge you to get started in your community immediately. See the previous post, "How To Get Started," for details. Write to, and check in regularly with this blog,


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

How to get started

There is a theme developing from comments and email I'm receiving -- many people feel powerless, failed in their earlier efforts, and unsure what, if anything, can be done, or done differently, so that real change will result. Of course the answer to that is a resounding LOTS, or I wouldn't have started this project. I announced this as a working tool, rather than a news commentary or discussion group, and that's how I'd like it to be used. It will take a few days for me to get this all together, but in the meantime, while you (I hope) circulate this blog's URL to your friends, we can all get started at the universal Square One of organizing. I will give you tip #1 right now.

Organizing First Amendment events (free assembly/free speech) does not constitute a movement. For the time being, there actually is no movement, and that's according to the literal definition of the word, as well as the organizational one. Nobody is moving, and nothing is moving. Everything is staying the same. Vigils have been on the same corner every week for five years. Once in awhile we hold a rally, or attend a forum where some well-known writer is appearing on his or her book tour. We are static, which is the opposite of movement. There are plenty of people coming up with all kinds of ideas of new things to try out, but since there is no actual Movement, only a few hundred or so people across the entire country ever respond to test out the mostly Internet-disseminated suggestions. But there could be a lot of power behind any or all of these suggestions if only anti-war people resolved to actually become a Movement. It's quite easy, and quite simple. Here's how to start.

Form a local group of like-minded people (not an online group, a real flesh-and-blood group) and meet once a week. You don't have to plan anything yet. Just decide you're going to meet once a week. You can talk about politics, but you don't always have to -- you could just go to a movie together, or a museum, or play softball. But you have to meet, once a week, same time, like the way people go to church, or a 12-step meeting, or a poker game, or the Kiwanis Club, or to a particular bar for Monday Night Football, etc., so that the process of being together as a communal unit, in a regularly scheduled manner, becomes an integral part of your lifestyle. Sort of like the John Doe Societies in the movie "Meet John Doe." You can start doing that right now. In fact, getting 20 people together to watch "Meet John Doe" ( would be a great way to get started. It's a real inspiration, and a tale as much for our time as the one in which it was made.

Then make sure you meet again the following week, same day, same time. At the second meeting you might discuss the pros and cons of, and your local ability to participate with, ideas for actions other than rallies and forums that you may have read about, and before closing the meeting, each of you agree to bring at least two new people to the next meeting, which of course will be on the same day, at the same time. By the end of the third meeting, at least three of you will have agreed to find a group of people in the town adjacent to yours who want to start their own weekly peace club, and you'll attend their introductory meeting, as well as bringing two more people to your own meeting on its regular night. Every time you're together, pass the hat and keep the money in a jar for when you need to buy a new toner cartridge, open a PO Box, or put a reservation down on a hall for an event.

In less than a year, in plenty of time to be present for the party conventions and to influence the federal campaigns, we'll have a real, powerful movement under way. Start tonight. Make a few calls, and pick a place and time. Make it happen. Send me an e-mail and tell me how it's going.

This site will be developing over the next few days. I'm just getting off the ground with this. You can communicate with me directly at